What Does A Balanced Diet Actually Mean?

We’ve all heard that we should be eating a healthy, balanced diet, but what exactly is it? Here we uncover what a balanced diet looks like, what its benefits are, and how you can achieve it.

A balanced diet includes a wide variety of foods from all the five major food groups and provides all of a person’s nutritional needs. Each person needs a certain number of kilojoules and nutrients to stay healthy and function at their best. A balanced diet provides the right amounts of kilojoules (not too many or too little), as well as adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and other essential nutrients. Balanced eating however isn’t just about nutrition and wellness, it also focuses on food enjoyment. So as much as it’s about eating minimally processed wholefoods, it’s also about satisfying flavours and controlled indulgences. It’s about understanding the social aspect of eating and that health also comes with enjoying controlled portions of foods that nourish the soul without the guilt.

Why Is A Balanced Diet Important?

Opting for a balanced diet keeps you fit and healthy. Without balanced nutrition, your body is more prone to disease, infection, fatigue and doesn’t performance at its best. A healthy balanced diet provides vital vitamins and minerals that keep the immune system healthy and support healthy growth and development, particularly in children. Following a healthy balanced diet has many benefits including supporting strong bones, protecting the heart, preventing disease, boosting mood, keeping the gut healthy, and maintaining healthy body weight.

How You Can Achieve It

When it comes to balanced eating, it’s not only about the food you eat, but also about the environment you eat your meals in. To achieve a better balance with your eating, follow these three tips.  

Balance your dinner plate

Choose an appropriate-sized dinner plate – not too large and not too small – and fill half of it with vegetables. Vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods around and can add volume to your meals without adding excess kilojoules. Next fill a quarter of your place with a carbohydrate source like brown rice, corn, sweet potato, pasta, legumes, or quinoa. Carbohydrates provide offer fuel and fibre. With the final quarter of your dinner plate, add a protein source like chicken, fish, meat, tofu, or eggs to keep you feeling satisfied. Finally, complete your plate by adding a serve of healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, or olive oil.

Avoid or limit highly processed foods

Foods containing saturated fat, added sugars, and high amounts of salt are best kept to a minimum1. Replace high-fat foods which contain predominately saturated fats such as cream, butter, and palm oil with foods that contain healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as nut butters, nuts, avocado, and plant-based oils like olive oil. Try to limit your intake of added sugars such as lollies, chocolate, soft drinks, cordials, and fruit juices, and use added salt sparingly. Keep alcohol to a minimum also. You can replace these with a sugar-free drink like Kanguru.

Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water is the best way to stay hydrated. Your daily fluid needs depending on your age and gender and should be somewhere between 4-8 glasses for a child and 8-10 glasses per day for an adult2. This includes water, milk, and other beverages and is in addition to the fluid you get from the food you eat. Try to avoid sugary soft drinks as they are high in sugar and bad for your teeth. Even fruit juice and smoothies are high in sugar and your intake should be kept to 150ml each day. If you’re in hot weather or exercising, you may need additional fluid intake.

References:

  1. National Health and Medical Research Council. Eat For Health. Available at URL https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/n55_australian_dietary_guidelines.pdf Accessed February 2021.
  2. National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values. Available at URL nrv.gov.au. Accessed February 2021.

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

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